Song Dong again

This is the Beijing based contemporarry performance artist whose ‘waste not’ piece was on at MOMA New York this summer.  I have just discovered another piece by him that I really like.. it captures such an something so personal and intimate and yet so ephemeral..   Reminds me a lot of the work of Andy Goldsworthy and yet rooted in a totally different tradition.

Song Dong
Writing diary with water (detail) 1995–present
4 colour photographs, ed. 11/12
40 x 60cm each
Collection: The artist

Below is a text about this piece of work from the Webiste of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art:

Writing diary with water 1995–present comprises four photographs that document an ongoing performance project.
Since 1995, Song Dong has used a calligraphy brush to write daily diary entries in water on a particular block of stone. When Song Dong was a child, his father encouraged him to practise his calligraphy in water on stone because they could not afford ink and paper. As an adult, he returned to this practice when he realised that conventional diary writing posed a risk of disclosure:

‘You might not think about this generally but during the diary writing process consider that someone else might be reading this someday. Since considering this I stopped writing a traditional diary’. (1)

Through this invisible journal, Song Dong engages in the process of diary keeping, knowing that his diary will never be read and that his thoughts will remain secret. The water diary has now become an important part of his life and art:

‘After a while this stone slowly became a part of me. That means I could say anything to it and be unscrupulous. This act became a part of life and it made me more relaxed.’ (2)


Monika Grzymala

I popped into the Fruitmarket Gallery today where they have an exhibition on called The End of the Line: Attitudes in Drawing.  I was particularly taken with the work of  Monika Grzymala which is the first thing I saw as I walked in.. 2km of Black Masking Shape spread across the upper corner of the room, almost all straight lines of varying lengths but some stuck to the wall and some stretched across space.  I wanted to get in amongst it and watch how the lines moved relative to one another as I waggled my head. 

 The artist described her work as 4d and that she was interested in the time element of her work;  I was trying to understand because it seemed static to me unless I moved .. but then I read in another description of her work a quote from Paul Klee that “a line is point taken for a walk”, and she describes her sculptures as drawing in space.

This picture below is not of the installation at the the Fruitmarket just now, which is a pity as I really liked it, however it is of a similar idea..  The blurb says she makes each installation in situ, taking quite a while over it, and the title is usually the length and type of tape used.  When the exhibition is over she like to come and take it down herself to store the component parts as an art work.

Marking time development

Been having great fun marking time, watching paint dry, painting the watching paint dry, painting the painting of watching the paintr dry and painting watching the painting of the painting of watching the paint dry.  Eye am becoming familiar with the back of my head.  Heaven knows where this is going..

Unstill life

this sculptural still life.. is made of iron based parts and arranged using magnets.  It looks still.. but cannot be as without all the effort exerted by the magnets all the various bits would fall on the ground.

Magnets are amazing. 

IMG_6163IMG_6169Having had an arrythmia diagnosed several years ago I am aware of the strange electric activity at the heart of existance.  How electricity can be made using a magnet and a coil of wire has always struck me as amazing.

Marking time development

The purpose of all my experiments has been about how to move from away from a  ‘killing time’ approach, to being more present in the present moment.  In some experiments, such as watching paint dry, the kettle boil and on the lochside at twilight this has been successful.  However sitting by the loch finding my mind worrying and going off at tangents was not successful in this respect.  I have also noticed that certain activities are very condusive to being in the present moment: painting and making compost in the garden have turned out to be good examples.

What I have concluded is that an interjection or interruption is required,  stopping the motoring on from one thing to the next.  This interruption is often enough, even just for a brief time, to cause a change in energy and attitude that has a profound effect.  So what I want to do is formalise this interruption in an art work.

Yesterday I started with putting together some ideas about how to make a constant motion device, either using simple harmonic motion, or more to do with mechanical actions and reactions maintained by magnets and weights.


Francis Alys

Alys was born in Belgium in 1959 and now lives and practises in Mexico City.  I have come across his work before, in Paradox of Praxis, in which he filmed himself pushing a large block of ice around Mexico City until it melted, demonstrating the idea that sometimes making something leads to nothing.

Another piece of his which I love is 1-866-FREE-MATRIX.  This was a telephone number that museum visitors were able to call, inspired by the artists own frustration at trying to contact a museum himself, and failing to reach a human, but simply being routed from one automated sequence menu to another.  aargh! I can’t stand automated telephone answering systems.  Alys set up his own sequences with disquieting options:

If you know where you want to go, press 1; If you want to know where to go, press 2; If you go where you are knowing, press 3; If you know where you are going, press 4.

and after that the choices get weirder and stranger, relating to existance, the destiny of mankind etc.  I would love to experience this piece for real.  It reminds me of a court case for criminal damage reported in the newspapers about 2 or 3 years ago.  A man got so frustrated with the poor customer service from an electronics retailer he overwrote their telephone answering message.. he changed it from “your call is important to us, but you are in a queue and we will answer as soon as possible” to something along the lines of “we don’t give a shit about your problems, why don’t you just f*** off”.  I have tried to find the article on line but as I can’t remember the shop or the date I haven’t had any luck.
alys1squareZócalo (Mexico City, 1999 collaboration with Rafael Ortega) is a 12 hour documentary following the progression of the shadow of the flagpole in the Zócalo (the main square in Mexico City) during the course of a day.   The Zócalo was redesigned at the beginning of the revolutionary era as a setting for huge propagandist spectacles and became with time the ideal space to express public discontent. Alÿs’ film records how arbitrary social encounters can sometimes be perceived as sculptural situations.   When I saw this I thought all the people were standing in the shadow as directed as part of the art work, but actually they are just taking advantage of a bit of shade from the sun.